COLD SPRING HARBOR, New York, June 11
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
After years of planning, Suffolk County’s newest nature preserve – nestled in a cozy Cold Spring Harbor neighborhood – opened to the public early Saturday afternoon.
Through a partnership of the North Shore Land Alliance, Town of Huntington, Suffolk County, New York State and local community members, the 32-acre passive use Wawapek Preserve opened on what used to be a portion of the DeForest Williams estate.
“This was such a wonderful experience for us,” Lisa Ott, North Shore Land Alliance president and CEO, said of the three-year-long process that spawned the preserve. “It’s so rare in these times when four layers of government can come together and help. We had some very, very crucial donors who came in at critical times… but I think one of the most delightful parts of this was the partnership we had with Suffolk County and the Town of Huntington.”
In 2012, when it appeared the historic property may be developed into residences, the partnership emerged in an effort to acquire the land and instead preserve it; the property was ultimately acquired earlier this spring. For over 100 years, the property – which was once part of a more-than 600-acre parcel encompassing Wawapek Farm – remained in the family of Robert Weeks DeForest. The family hoped to see the land preserved and the partnership eventually made that possible.
“This certainly speaks highly of how government, community advocacy groups [and] the community can work hand-in-hand and accomplish something that’s so valuable, that will be here forever from generation-to-generation,” Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said of the total $8.5-million purchase that was made through the combination of partners. “I hope that many people will walk these trails to see some of the unique flora and fauna that call the Wawapek preserve their home.”
Several rare species and vegetation populate the property, Ott said, and are on full display for any and whole who wish to take a leisurely stroll or nature walk through the preserve. The property also lies at the edge of the Oyster Bay Important Bird Area, which is one of New York’s 136 such sites.
“This property here [is] so critical with regards to its impact on nature,” Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport) said. “I’m just fortunate to be part of the team; I love this community… and I’m looking forward to enjoying [the Wawapek Preserve] with all of you.”
The entrance to the preserve, which is found near the intersection of Spring Hill Road and Mowbray Lane North, sports trail signs and benches and serves as a beautiful showcase of what lies ahead in the depths of Wawapek. The North Shore Land Alliance will act as sole stewards of the preserve and is seeking volunteers to aid in stewardship efforts. For more information on how to volunteers, contact Ott via email at: Lisa@NorthShoreLandAlliance.org.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, June 11, 2015; A19)